Reading fiction is not that dissimilar from watching a movie in your brain. The ways in which audio-visual consumption of fiction and reading fiction diverge is in their demand on engagement – when reading I must learn new words, I struggle to find meaning, I use my imagination, I slowly strengthen understanding – I meet books more than half-way in my mind’s eye.

Movies and television, in contrast, demand less engagement from the viewer – much of the vision and interpretation is handed (or forced) on the audience. As popular movies and TV demand less, they also seem more apt to acquiesce to popular whim – mirroring the culture that consumes them rather than challenging it. The level of engagement demanded by audio-visual entertainment is also subject to a shifting baseline – that is, it’s gotten less challenging over time.

This is not a knock on all television and movies as a form of art. Often television, movies, and documentaries are the perfect medium to convey a particular message. Also, there are many movies and television programs which are, in fact, very challenging to their audience in addition to being very enjoyable.

Also, it is noteworthy that I tend to read mass-market crap – the book-equivalent of high-fructose corn syrup. I’ve come to terms with this fact. I read some crap, I read some good things, occasionally I’ll read a few great (and nominally “great”) things. I end up with a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from reading crap rather than watching crap – YMMV.

This is a long way of saying – I think that reading is a Good Thing™ and I want to do more of it. To enforce more of a habit, I set reading goals for myself at the start of each year. In 2015 I wanted to read a book a month. In 2016 I wanted to read 2 books a month. In both 2015 and 2016 my grasp has exceeded my reach – which is not how goals are supposed to work.

Books read in 2016

  1. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
  2. Black Hole by Charles Burns
  3. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  5. Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
  6. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  7. The Circle by Dave Eggers
  8. Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
  9. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
  10. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
  11. Stoner by John Williams
  12. Prost! The Story of German Beer by Horst D. Dornbusch
  13. Bock by Darryl Richman
  14. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
  15. Room by Emma Donoghue
  16. Kitchen Confidential: adventures in the culinary underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
  17. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
  18. Watchers by Dean Koontz
  19. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
  20. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  21. Everything but Espresso by Scott Rao
  22. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  23. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  24. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  25. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
  26. CODE: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold
  27. The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
  28. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
  29. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

I also reviewed a couple of these books over the course of 2016, hopefully I can continue down that path in the year to come.

Goals for 2017

I’m going to try to read roughly a book a week in 2017 – 50 books for the year. Hopefully 50 books is an ambitious enough goal. Additionally, I’d like to try to do 6 book reviews on this blog as a means of:

  • Tracking what I’ve read
  • Checking my understanding
  • Engaging and owning what I’ve read

I’d also like to lay claim to my crazy ambitious plan to read 4 whole, real, grown-up (i.e., not beer- or computer-related) non-fiction books this year.

As I’m proclaiming these goals publicly for the first time, I’m sure I’ll come up woefully and shamefully short – yay blogging! :)